Union membership fell to record low in 2022, Bureau of Labor Statistics says

Union membership fell to record low in 2022, Bureau of Labor Statistics says

WASHINGTON — Union membership in the U.S. dropped to the lowest since the federal government began collecting such data in 1983, according to a report released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The agency found that the union membership rate fell to 10.1% in 2022, down from 10.3% in 2021. It explained that the drop was attributed to the increase in the total number of wage and salary workers, most of whom didn’t belong to a union, outpacing the increase in the number of workers belonging to one.

Between 2021 and 2022, the number of union members went up by 273,000 people, but during that same period, the number of non-union members increased by about 5.3 million.

“This disproportionately large increase in the number of total wage and salary employment compared with the increase in the number of union members led to a decrease in the union membership rate,” the report said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics began measuring the union membership rate in 1983, when it was 20.1% and there were 17.7 million workers. The rate it fell to in 2022 was the lowest on record, the agency said Thursday.

The AFL-CIO, which holds the largest number of unions, appeared to dismiss the record low and celebrated the latest data because membership grew despite the fact that “giant corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks ratcheted up illegal efforts to intimidate, harass and fire workers who are forming unions.”

“In 2022, we saw working people rising up despite often illegal opposition from companies that would rather pay union-busting firms millions than give workers a seat at the table,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement.

According to the 2022 data, the highest union membership rate was among people who worked in protective service, in education, training and libraries. The agency also found that the rate was higher among men than women and Black workers were more likely to belong to a union than white, Hispanic or Asian workers.

Rebecca Shabad

Rebecca Shabad is a politics reporter for NBC News based in Washington.

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